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4.5 out of 5 stars52
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on 24 January 2009
This was a strange combination. The story is well written and readable but oh! how our 'heroine' Miss Purdy made me cross! What drew me originally to the book was that Miss P, the product of a respectable, middle-class family, put aside the opinion of her parents and left home to teach in a school in the inner-city of Birmingham. I thought the story would show us how she made a difference to the lives of these children. I thought I was getting a story about a strong female character but, in truth, she was just a dithering, love-sick girl who followed others blindly.

I longed to read more of Joey Phillip's character because he packed more sorrow and suffering into his little life than Miss P could ever hope to cope with. That the child 'dreamed' of Miss P whilst he lay starving and delirious seemed totally unrealistic. The woman hadn't done much to make a difference to his sad little life.

I also think Miss P's fellow teaching colleague, Lily Drysdale, should have had a much bigger part in the book - she certainly had more about her than wishy-washy Miss P and, indeed, if it hadn't been for Lily, then Joey and his family probably wouldn't have appeared on Miss P's emotional radar at all. Even the scatty landlady Ariadne had a certain sparkle and charm!

From a historical perspective, the story told us a lot about the Communist Party and the hardship of the miners in the Welsh pit villages in the 1930s but again, the character of Daniel, Miss P's squeeze and 'fighter for the cause of justice for the poor of his homeland' was totally unlikeable and I had no sympathy for him whatsoever.

Still, I did finish the book so it had something going for it!
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on 13 November 2005
If you've read and enjoyed any of Annie Murray's other books you'll love this one! You can't help but love Gwen Purdy and the back-drop for the book is brilliant. The book is about the people but there are some really interesting insights into the Communist movement in Britain just before the second world war.
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on 11 November 2011
*some spoilers*

You know, I read all these reviews before I purchased the book, and hoped your review might be wrong - I was really interested in the book and being a Brummie and all, but your review was spot on - I was left a little baffled, the book was really well written, but I honestly couldn't care less about the political stuff. Miss Purdy said she didn't like teaching at the start, and then somehow transformed the lives of the kids - I couldn't see how she became so inspirational when she was more concerned with her love life.
The students were really interesting, but most of the book was set outside of the school which I felt was a bit of a shame, the teachers that worked with Miss Purdy felt really 2D. It would have been nice to learn about the type of things that were taught in the 30's (only history and maths are ever mentioned), some more development of the teachers and students too.

The little boy Joe's story was awful, but not much of his voice is heard. The book is written so we find out what happened to him from the viewpoint of other people, but he seemed such a main character that there should have been more insight into how he was coping with everything that happens - he just plods through the book really.

He was indifferent to Miss Purdy and then left school due to a lot of problems, but then calls out her name when he is ill towards the end of the book - he didn't even have much to do with Miss Purdy... And though it is mentioned she helped him, I think there should have been more conversations between the two so we could see the relationship more.

Overall, while I think that the author has a nice writing style - I couldn't put the book down last night!, I was disappointed when I finished it. The author maybe needs to think about what how she wants her characters to develop...

Sorry Annie Murray, I'll just borrow the books from the library as I'm still hoping that her others aren't as frustrating.

I wouldn't recommend this book.
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on 14 May 2008
A fabulous book that gets to you when you read about the characters. Annie Murray weaves such wonderful storylines that you cannot fail to somehow feel so involved with the people in them. My heart ached for the young boy Joey who is orphaned early on in his young life, who struggles to survive hardships without people who love him. There is a teacher Miss Purdy who plays an important part of his life who gets embroiled with the lives of her class, and cares greatly for them. She is a rare gem in the era where children are seen nor heard. This book is an absolute must, yet again this book brought tears to my eyes. Made a second wonderful read.
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on 21 August 2008
I hadn't read any Annie Murray before, although I've seen her books around and think she was read by my grandmother a few years before her death in 2003. I bought the book for 50p in a boot sale, mainly because I am a teacher myself and interested in the history of teaching; as well as that, the setting in Birmingham was an interesting one as my dad's family came from there: obviously why my Nan read previous books.
I didn't realise I would become so involved in Gwen Purdy's world and how much I would learn about socialist history just before the 2nd world war. Both my paternal grandparents were active in the Labour movement in Birmingham and although they weren't Communists I felt I was learning a bit about their early lives. Despite the crashing coincidences towards the end, I very much enjoyed the book and intend to read others by Annie Murray now I have discovered her.
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on 26 August 2012
I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down. It really is beautifully written and made me laugh and cry. Wonderful, warm characters and a captivating and fascinating story that I really lost myself in. I would give ten stars if I could!
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2011
I had looked at Annie Murray's books before but always been put off because, well, I thought they were too old for me (I'm 22). The cover certainly does this book no favours. I picked up this one because the synopsis sounded good. I work in a school (I teach cover lessons) so I thought I could identify with this one.

The story is truly brilliant. I could not put the book down and loved how we heard from various characters. The scenarios and people in the book are explained so well, you can almost imagine being there. I liked how the author introduced us to politics as well, but it didn't feel at all heavy.

As some people have pointed out, Gwen does seem to be a weak heroine, although I think at the end I have much more respect for her than throughout the rest of the book. I gave the book 4 stars and not 5 for this reason, as well as the fact that I hate the cover. I dread to think how many other people have been put off because of this.

I have already ordered 'Chocolate Girls', 'Birmingham Blitz' and 'A Hopscotch Summer'. I can't wait to read more by this author and I hope that she might write a follow up to this one soon!
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on 26 February 2013
I love Annie Murray so really enjoyed this book. I like the way her books are set during the war and find this adds to the interest in her books.
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on 16 January 2013
Excellent, now Im hoping to find the next episode of this book to find out what happened next, cant`t wait!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 January 2016
Set in 1930's Wales, this book is similar to many of it's kind. This is a bit of a romance against a poor social background with a bit of politics thrown in.

This isn't a bad book of this type - I did enjoy it on the whole. It was a bit predicatable & I could see the course that the book was going to take from the outset. As each character or situation was introduced I had a fair idea what was going to happen. However for all it's predictability it was well written with reasonable characters with some depth. I did feel that one or two of Miss Purdy's arguments didn't quite hold water & there was a definite situation where she was "the pot calling the kettle black" which the author failed to comment upon.

If you like this sort of book then this is worth reading. If you don't generally read this style but want to give it a go then you could do a lot worse than try this one.
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